UPMC's urgent care development binge irritates rival

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is on an urgent care center development binge. In December, it plans to open its newest urgent care center, competing with two other places offering nearly identical services within a five-mile radius, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

UPMC also is considering leases at three other locations, Dr. Robert Maha, president and chief medical officer for Emergency Resource Management Inc., a unit of UPMC, told the Tribune-Review. Demand is strong, with each of UPMC's two centers seeing more than 40 patients per day, Maha said.

Leaders at UPMC rival West Penn Allegheny Health System are not thrilled that the new UPMC urgent care center in Natrona Heights will open within two miles of one of its hospitals. West Penn Allegheny, which operates two urgent care centers at former hospital sites, plans to extend hours at primary care sites, but does not plan to create standalone urgent care sites.

Urgent care perhaps is a sore subject for West Penn Allegheny, which plans to close the ER at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield, Pa., because 86 percent of its 20,000 ER patients did not present with life-threatening conditions.

Urgent care drawback are that it's episodic and fragmented, interim chair of emergency medicine at West Penn Allegheny, Dr. Tom Campbell, told the Tribune-Review.

But Maha notes that UPMC centers will be linked to UPMC's electronic medical records system, so system doctors can automatically receive records from their patients' visits to the urgent care facilities.

In other developments in urgent care, one urgent care center franchise--Doctors Express, based in Towson, Md.--is set to double in size by year's end, according to the San Diego Business Journal. Currently 10 Doctors Express centers are up and running. Twenty will be open by the end of the year, a spokesman said. Nearly 70 franchises have been sold in 21 states.

It costs $55,000 to buy a franchise. Another $700,000 will help build out the space and purchase equipment, a company spokesman said.

To learn more:
- read the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story
- here's the San Diego Business Journal article

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